After school. The 3 o’clock blahs. Quatre heures. However you want to say it, we all know the feeling. Whether you’re a kid finishing school and heading to sports or ballet or even just after school care or an adult suffering the mid-afternoon slump with still a pile of work to get through, you’ll need some sustenance. And no, I’m not talking about hitting up the vending machine. Snacks that are good for you don’t have to be complicated and if you get yourself organized on a Sunday afternoon, you can even pre-prepare these with the help of your kids. An hour or so on a Sunday afternoon can prevent those mid-afternoon meltdowns all week. Time well spent.
So what to prepare? Well, I’ve talked before about the value of granola as a great breakfast choice. Well here is it again, this time in the form of a snack. If you make your granola ahead of time, you can measure it out in 1/2 cup quantities and store in ziploc bags for a quick grab-and-go snack. Granola is great because it’s so easy for kids to customize their own mix.
An easy snack after school can be a granola parfait – a carton of your favourite yoghurt topped with a few tablespoons of granola and a sliced banana – satisfying and easy.
Granola can also be baked into granola bars… or muffins!
And if you’re into a different sort of muffin, how about a healthy brown rice muffin? My boys cooking club made these and apparently you couldn’t even tell they were healthy!
Speaking of muffins, they are a great way to incorporate fruit into your diet and they don’t have to be the fat and sugar laden versions. How about this plum muffin, inspired by a recipe from the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers? Using whole wheat flour, substituting some of the butter for apple sauce and using buttermilk or skim milk, these are a much healthier version of a muffin than many of the “cake masquerading as muffins” on the market.
Ingredients for 12 muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup skim or buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons apple sauce
1 large egg
1/2 cup peeled, chopped ripe plums (4 or 5)
1. Grease (or line with paper baking cups) 12 muffin cups.
2. Pre-heat oven to 425°F (220°C).
3. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds and cinnamon.
4. In small bowl, combine milk, butter, apple sauce, egg and plums. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. Batter will be a little lumpy, that’s ok!
5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter.
6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
7. Cool on rack.
8. Remove muffins and serve warm, though muffins freeze well. Thaw overnight at room temperature and toast or reheat in a microwave for about 30 seconds.
And if all this sweet is not your cup of tea, dips and spreads are wonderful ways to get a quick protein fix into your (or your kids’ day!). How about this white bean dip inspired by a trip to Mexico?
Mexican white bean dip
Inspired by a recent trip to Mexico where we were served beans with every meal and adapted from The Professional Chef, p. 819
1lb (454g) dried white (navy) beans
water (or chicken stock) as needed
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons oregano powder
salt, to taste
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
crumbled feta and cilantro, to serve
1. Rinse the beans well in cold water.
2. Soak the beans overnight.
3. Drain and rinse the beans.
4. Place the beans in the stock or water combined with the oregano powder and bay leaf (there should be a couple of inches more water than beans)and simmer, uncovered, for about 60-90 minutes or until the beans are tender enough to mash against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Most of the water should have evaporated. If you have more than about 1/4 cup, drain the excess. Remove the bay leaf and remove beans from heat.
5. Add the minced shallots, garlic, cumin, cilantro and oregano and, using an immersion blender, mash until the mixture is as smooth or as lumpy as you like it. I like to keep it a bit lumpy – prefer the rustic look.
6. Mix the olive oil into the beans. This is not a creamy mixture – it’s more dry – so if you are serving it a few days later a drop of olive oil should be mixed in to moisten it a little.
7. Sprinkle with a little crumbled feta and cilantro and serve with tortilla chips or fresh vegetables as a dip.
So whether you like sweet or savoury, spending a little time on the weekend preparing your weekday afternoon snacks in advance with help keep everyone sane during the busy work week!
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher and part-time food blogger based in Toronto. Her blog, eat.live.travel.write focuses on culinary adventures both near and far because she travels as often as she can!